If I had to pick one word to describe Gunnar Andersen, it would be driven.
And if you had predicted 10 years ago what he’s doing today, I would have thought your predictions highly improbable.
I met Gunnar when I was about 12 years old when I was dancing with his younger sister. He was always nice to me, but I don’t remember too much about him from that age. He was just a normal teenage boy who liked to make fun of his sister and her friends, and that’s all that I recall. And now, suddenly, Gunnar is driven.
From my perspective, this transformation appeared to happen overnight. Today if you meet Gunnar, you will be nothing short of amazed at how passionate he is about spreading his message and the lifestyle that he believes in.
Gunnar started his college career at UConn where he had a full scholarship, having graduated from his high school as salutatorian. However, after an entirely underwhelming experience with an advisor, he decided that a smaller school was a better fit for him. He continued his higher education at Eastern Connecticut State University and got a degree in Health and Physical Education, as well as becoming certified as a personal trainer. If you spend about 30 seconds scrolling through his Instagram page, you can see how this degree fits his life like a glove. Gunnar is the founder of GUNNFIT, a lifestyle brand where he promotes his beliefs – everything from the importance of an active lifestyle and a vegan diet to his anti-vaccination position and questioning of commonly held beliefs. While I might not see eye to eye with everything that Gunnar believes in, no one can argue that Gunnar is successful, ambitious – and entirely focused on getting his message out.
And would you ever have guessed that he was homeschooled?
From grades 3-7, Gunnar was homeschooled by his mom, along with his three siblings. His mom chose a relaxed approach to their schooling, but placed great importance on reading. In retrospect, he was able to realize that the amount of time he spent doing work was minuscule in comparison to the hours and hours that his peers spent, and yet when he went back to school for eighth grade he found that he wasn’t behind, but instead was actually ahead of his fellow students. He credits this to the time he spent reading, comprehending, and having a good work ethic instilled in him from a young age. He was able to learn at his own pace and concentrate on what he found interesting.
While Gunnar has always been a very outgoing person, he didn’t feel like he lacked for socialization while he was homeschooled. Every season there was a different sport that he played, and for several years he also had a best friend that lived just down the road from him. He really doesn’t feel like he missed out on anything, as he still had frequent interactions with other children. Instead, he feels like he gained more from being homeschooled because he had plenty of time to be a kid. He had more time on his hands, less stress, and was allowed to follow his own interests at his leisure. Even though his homeschool past doesn’t come up very often in conversation, Gunnar is still aware of the stigma that is faced by all homeschoolers. He made the point that there is definitely a stigma that many homeschooled children are “uber religious, super, super weirdo kids. Are there some of them? Yeah, but there’s also some of those in public school too.”
While I was talking to Gunnar, I asked him what he thought were some surprising facts about homeschooling, and he brought up a great point. His surprising fact was that there isn’t a universal curriculum for homeschooled students, and the state (Connecticut) doesn’t have any say in what is learned at home. I’ve personally done some research on the homeschooling legislation in the United States, and I can understand why people could have misconceptions about the requirements homeschoolers are tied to under the law. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but each state can set their own guidelines for homeschoolers to follow, so it varies widely. Connecticut happens to be a very easy state to homeschool in, which could explain why I have grown up with 5 homeschool families (that I know of) who live within a four mile radius of my home. In this state, homeschool families aren’t required to show any annual progress or have a set curriculum. In my family, my mom sent a letter to the school system each year, informing them that my brother and I wouldn’t be going to school that year, but she wasn’t even required to do that much. Gunnar agreed with me in thinking that it was sad that a lot of people don’t know what their rights are when it comes to homeschooling, and that people should learn to question the school system. Just because they send paperwork asking for information on the curriculum or proof of schooling doesn’t mean that it is required by law, and in Connecticut, it’s not.
In the end, Gunnar returned to school because he wanted to become more involved with sports as club sports weren’t enough for him at that point, but throughout the entire time I talked to him, he had nothing but praise for homeschooling. He is an incredibly confident individual, and seems much more self-assured than most 23 year olds that I know. I’m not sure if I can equate this to the time that he spent homeschooling, but I do know that throughout the interview process so far, I have talked to many homeschooled students and I have found a similar theme. Homeschoolers tend to be unapologetically themselves and are unafraid of being unique, individual and different – and Gunnar is certainly no exception.
To learn more about Gunnar’s message: http://gunnfit.com
To learn more about homeschooling legislation in Connecticut: https://www.hslda.org/hs/state/CT/